Every five years, Congress gets an opportunity to strengthen our nation’s commitment to hunger relief via the Farm Bill. This rare moment in the legislative calendar guarantees a review of federal nutrition strategies like SNAP and food banks, which serve as the backbone of hunger relief in America.
Here in Texas, we know we can do better. We recently led the Texas Food Policy Roundtable, a coalition of over sixty organizations dedicated to fighting hunger, in the creation of a joint vision statement lifting up three ways that Congress can fight hunger and improve the health of Texas families in this year’s Farm Bill.
1. Improve the adequacy and use of SNAP benefits
Texas is a low-wage, high-cost state. Despite the high cost of items like personal transportation and childcare, our state has failed to increase the minimum wage or expand access to federally-funded social services like Medicaid.
During the pandemic, a temporary boost to SNAP showed us what a truly adequate benefit looks like. Congress should recognize this success, and make the standard SNAP benefit stronger by basing it on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan or improving expense deductions. SNAP should also be as convenient to use as cash online, in grocers, and at farmers markets – giving families every option to eat conveniently and healthily.
2. Remove barriers to financial security among SNAP participants
Most SNAP participants are children, elderly, or people with disabilities; and adults who can work, do. For these Texans, SNAP supports their ability to eat healthy while they continue to climb the economic ladder. But if a SNAP participant owns a reliable car to get to work or wants to improve their earning potential by going back to college, SNAP regulations disqualify them from receiving food assistance.
Congress should encourage financial security by eliminating these barriers to economic mobility.
3. Bolster the charitable food response
During periods of insecurity, Texans who don’t qualify for programs like SNAP must rely on the offerings of food banks and other charitable food providers.
Our food banks depend on USDA to bring healthy staples to every Texas county. Texas’ vast geography makes transportation of these goods expensive, while our status as an agricultural production state means many Texas growers also rely on these programs.
Congress should double USDA’s current support for food banks through programs like TEFAP, as well as increase investment in connections like the Farm to Food Bank program.
Congress should protect our long-time, bipartisan investment in federal hunger relief.
Programs like SNAP should be celebrated for shielding many of our neighbors from hunger during the pandemic, as well during the current period of high food inflation. They shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips to reduce the federal budget or force families into impossible choices.
In particular, we hope the Congress rejects efforts to cut SNAP benefits, subject more participants to inflexible work requirements, or make SNAP less responsive for Texas.
SNAP is a proven investment in Texas families, and a demonstration of our commitment to end hunger in our prosperous nation. If you agree, let your Congress Member know today!